Thursday, 25 June 2009

Theatre Review: Death of a Salesman (Muerte de un Viajante)

Death of a Salesman (Muerte de un viajante), by Arthur Miller; translation Eduardo Mendoza; directed by Mario Gas

I don't like Willy Loman. He's a loser. That might sound harsh, but it's true: he can't face up to the fact that, like most of the population of this godforsaken (and I really mean that) planet, he amounts to nothing. Nevertheless, despite this self-deception - indeed, precisely because of it - I can't help but feel sorry for him. He buys into the American Dream wholesale, despite the fact that no one around him, least of all his customers, will. Willy Loman is not a tragic hero, he's a tragic failure, and that is part of why I love this play. The thought of seeing it in translation was an attractive prospect.

The first thing I noted, and therefore worth commenting on, was the staging. It was beautiful. Rarely can that be said of a play which flits back and forth between the road, a house with three levels and a garden, two different offices and the various spaces recreated within the protagonist's mind. It's a difficult feat to accomplish, but with a large stage, three projection screens, lights and very effective use of platforms and furniture pulled across on-stage tracks the production provides its audience with an endless stream of spaces, both indoor and outdoor, which blend into each other seamlessly. Seamlessly.

The feel of 1950s America was very much in place, actually. A short (untranslated) propaganda film promoting the "Happy, Healthy American Man" was used as a sort of prologue, and the production crew worked very hard to collect obscure hits and radio clips which served to hold the audience's interest during scene changes and interludes.

Now, on to the acting. My housemate, who saw the show with me, said that the play would still have been good with bad actors. He's wrong, of course, a good production relies on all components working together, and the acting in this production was top notch. I could write an essay on how well Jordi Boixaderas played Loman, but I'm feeling lazy, so just know he was fan-bloody-tastic. Rosa Renom ans long-suffering Linda was not particularly impressive in the first half, but something happened to her character in the second, which proved just how well she'd been up to that point. I imagine it was a subtle decision made by Gas to underplay Linda's role in the family - and indeed, in the play - until Loman's mind begins to rapidly deteriorate. Pablo Derqui was a good Biff, but Oriol Vila let the team down, unfortunately. There's always one, and Vila was playing with his voice to such an extent it became slightly irritating. He was also slow on the old reaction-times, turning his head, or moving some part of his body about half a minute after everyone else. I can only assume he was having an off day. It does happen to all of us. The supporting cast were all ranging between good and very good, with special mention going out to Víctor Valverde, who played the spectre of Loman's obscenely rich brother Ben. His laugh - both comforting and mocking - still haunts me as I write.

The direction was, at points a little too strong: by this I mean several moments felt a little forced, or perhaps "wedged" into the flow of the action, as if Gas was out to do something which he felt may underline the tragedy: some of the blocking puzzled me, for intsance; but I'm picking at tiny insignificant hairs. Overall, the experience was very enjoyable, and a recommended one.

Four Stars.


  1. I never read this book, even though it was the required reading in high school and university English courses. Thank god for cliff notes.

  2. You did an English major at university? And managed to get through questions on the text without having actually read it...? I admire you.

    Do read it, though...

  3. Ummm no. My majors were computer science and chemical engineering. But English courses were nonetheless required in the first 2 years.